Deep Wounds in the
a sermon on David and Bathsheba, 2 Sam 11:1-15, 12:1-9
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Remember those 18th century portraits that youve seen
in museums? The people in the portraits always seem to be deep in reflection, approaching
sainthood. Facial hairs are well-groomed and theyre dressed magnificently. A few
even have their hands stuffed inside their coats like Napoleon. Their portrait may suggest
theyre in their prime-but my guess is that theyre already retired. Another
thing: where are the warts and bulbous snozs? The artist has smoothed wrinkles,
straightened teeth, and replaced crossed-eyes with piercing vision. In the portrait,
George Washingtons teeth may look like porcelain, but in real life theyre just
your average stained, wooden teeth. Fact is, people have always wanted to be remembered in
the best possible light.
I think most of us are the same way. What if MGM made a movie of your life and to sell
the movie, they included your most embarrassing and humiliating sins in graphic detail! So
next Sunday you read in the Parish News that a screening of your steamy life will be shown
during refreshment hour! Im not sure who would hang around to watch, but I know
someone that would be suspiciously missing-you! You wouldnt want to parade your
failures, sins and faux pas. We want our best portrait in the viewing eye.
Did you know that we have two very different portraits of Davids life in the
Bible? One is in 1st Chronicles. In that portrait, the story of David is recorded much
like 17th century portraits-as a military hero, a Napoleonic conqueror, a spiritual
national icon. No warts!
But the other portrait of David is in 2nd Samuel. This is the version is the stuff that
movies are made of-for here we have a picture of David without his halo on, a man caught
in his most sinful, humiliating sin. It is in 2 Samuel that we see a David who has an
affair with a woman and then concocts an elaborate cover up. This is the MGM version of
Its spring. And you know what that means! Its time for the armies to go out
and beat on each other. So Israels army is out in the thick of battle. But not
David. He should be. He is the military leader. Just his presence would encourage bravery
among the troops, much like our President can boost the morale of our troops when facing
battle. But Davids not with the troops. Hes back in Jerusalem-withdrawing from
One writer suggests that his staying home is symptomatic of a leanness of soul. He
seems to be pulling back from the fervent prayer and daring faith that has marked his
Its dusk. And David is walking on his palace veranda and there sees a beautiful
woman taking a bath. With each passing moment David craves what he sees. So he sends for
his personal valet to find some information about her. And heres what the valet
Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
Thats a very telling statement! Normally, an Israelite would simply give the
genealogy-"this is so and so, the daughter of so and so and the granddaughter of so
and so." But did you catch what this valet is telling David? "This is Bathsheba,
daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite." The valet is saying as plain as he
can without losing his head, "David, the ladys married."
No matter. Shes beautiful and hes king. So he sends for her and takes her
in his bed, then discards her and sends her home.
So where is Bathshebas husband during this affair? Uriah is off fighting in the
army. About a month later Bathsheba discovers that shes pregnant and lets David know
it. Well, David, the master problem-solver, sends for and then gives her husband a
months leave. Hes sure that Uriah and Bathsheba will solve the baby problem.
But Uriah will not enjoy pleasure while his comrades are out on the battlefield risking
their lives. So he sleeps in the servants quarters behind Davids palace. Next,
he gets Uriah lushed on palace wine, but still Uriah will not go to Bathsheba. Now
its time to panic! So in a final act of desperation, David sends Bathshebas
husband to the battlefield with a letter for Joab, Davids military commander.
"Put Uriah in the thickest part of the battle," orders David. Within the hour,
Uriah is history-hes no longer a threat. Bathsheba has barely finished mourning her
husbands death when David snatches her up to place in his wife collection.
What a gross portrait! Thats the story that you wont find in 1 Chronicles-a
story thats been repeated over and over and over through the centuries. Have you
noticed how "sin stories" after a while begin to sound pretty much alike? Seems
most of sin swirls around the theme of wanting to be gods ourselves.
Fortunately, the gospel enters the story! Comes in the form of Nathan. Months later
Pastor Nathan walks into Davids throne room with a story. David has no idea that
hes listening to a sermon; hes not sitting in a pew and Nathan isnt
standing in a pulpit. But Nathan tells this story about a rich guy with large flocks of
sheep but who arrogantly takes the pet lamb of a poor neighbors family down the road
and then kills it and serves this pet up as the main entrée to his guests.
David is drawn into the story; he is outraged that this man could do such a cruel thing
and jumps up enraged and utters a death sentence on the rich man. Nathan, calmly gets up
from the couch and walks over to him; looks him eyeball to eyeball and says, "You are
What a surprise! David is listening to his pastor preach a sermon about somebody else
and getting all worked up about someone elses sin! Thats a very common
response, isnt it? To get all lathered over someone elses mess, but never ever
thinking that perhaps we are in the same shape? That, in view of God, were all a bit
warty in our portraits! "I wish old Jonesy could have heard your sermon,
Pastor!" they say. Our culture is now pandering what has been called the new
voyeurism in America. We can now sit back and through TV and videos can watch other
peoples sins from a safe distance.
With each word in Nathans sermon, David becomes more incensed until finally he
hears the gospel-You are the one. You! Up to this point its been somebody
elses sin. Now sin has become upfront and personal.
Maybe thats what preachers are for-to bring us into focus in the story. This
story is about us. You are the man; you are the woman. "Its not my brother or
my sister, but its me O Lord, standin in the need of prayer."
Heres how this story can help us. The gospel tells us who we really are:
were created by God. Redeemed by God. Blessed by God. Provided for by God. Loved by
God. Everytime we deny our true image of God, we sin. Everytime we decide to play god for
awhile, we are the man/woman in that story. Thats what David did, he decided to
become god for awhile.
More David, less God. The more David gets into the me-god character, the less visible
God becomes. David acts like a god to Bathsheba, pulling her into his orbit and making her
dependent on him. He plays god to Joab, giving death commands, and plays god with Uriah by
determining his fate.
A question: do you think David felt like he was a sinner when he was "in the
act." I dont think so. I think he actually felt godlike, fulfilled. "Oh
no, what nonsense!" the serpent says, "youll not die, youll be like
gods." David didnt feel like a sinner when he made a move for Bathsheba, he
felt like a lover. And when he sent for Uriah, he didnt feel like a sinner, he felt
like a king. Somewhere along the line he had withdrawn from worship and the adoration of
God. And then he picked up the God character script for himself.
But God so loved that he sent Nathan who walked into the room that day and helped David
recover an awareness of the real God. And thats where Psalm 51 comes in.
Davids psalm is a God-recovery psalm. Confronted with his sins, he admits his guilt
and crumbles to the ground in repentance. The consequences of Davids actions will be
heavy. He and his family will suffer deep wounds, but he gets back on track by being
honest about his life. In return, he gets his soul back from Gods laundry scrubbed
clean from all guilt. David discovers once again that God never gives up on us. Our
once-broken bones can dance again.
A closing caution. This story doesnt encourage us to go around spelunking for
sin. Ive never met anyone whose sins are that interesting. Not a lot of variations
to the sin theme. Most of em are reruns-been there done that over and over and over.
Thats why Psalm 51 has only four words to describe the landscape of sin. But it
takes nineteen different verbs to describe how God forgives and cleanses the soul -
because thats where the real action is. That is, we have just a few ways to sin
creatively but God has an infinite number of ways to forgive. Sinning doesnt take
much imagination, but forgiveness and salvation? Whoa!!!! Gods grace and forgiveness
is fresh and original and surprising everytime it happens to us.
Communion this morning requires brutal honesty of us. God invites us to take off the
mask - and to be honest to God. Dont come before God with some unblemished,
doctored-up portraits. Come without airs, without our religiosity and goodness. And say
with me, "I am the man, I am the woman, merciful God, that has not loved you with our
whole heart." Communion-Christs blood and body-are not for those of us who
think weve got our act together; its for those of us who know that we
desperately need God if were ever going to make it. Its not my brother, nor my
sister, but its me, O Lord, a standin in the need of prayer. Amen.